EEC environmental Directives and the direct effect doctrine

The so-called direct effect doctrine of EEC law has been little used to date in environmental litigation in the UK. By providing a means for private citizens to raise directly the term of EEC environmental Directives before national courts and other tribunals, the doctrine has potentially major implications in providing an additional mechanism for the effective implementation of EEC legislation, and is likely to be one of the key issues in environmental law over the next decade. Our legal correspondent Richard Macrory (Barrister and Reader in Environmental Law, Centre for Environmental Technology, Imperial College), who has just completed several months on secondment to the Legal Unit in the European Commission's Environment Directorate, examines the evolution and implications of the direct effect doctrine.

The direct effect doctrine was developed by the European Court of Justice a little over a decade ago as a legal check on Member States who had failed to implement Directives within their specified time limits. In essence, the doctrine holds that particular provisions of directives can be relied upon by individual citizens in legal actions against government authorities, whatever the state of national legislation.

Despite the controversy w

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